Maui Nui Law & Justice Academy


Introducing High School Students to Careers in the Judiciary

By Lisa M. Ginoza and Troy Andrade

The Maui Nui Law & Justice Academy recently held its inaugural program for high school students interested in justice, law, leadership, advocacy or related fields.

Photo: Uncle Jimmy Kauihou with students
Uncle Jimmy Kauihou (right, back to camera), a Hawaiian cultural practitioner, taught the students about traditional rights and practices. – Photos: Troy Andrade

The academy was a collaborative effort between the Hawaiʻi Supreme Court’s Commission to Promote and Advance Civic Education (PACE Commission), the University of Hawaiʻi Maui College, the William S. Richardson School of Law, the Hawaiʻi State Judiciary, and the Maui County Bar Association.

Twenty-three students from Maui, Molokaʻi, and Lānaʻi were selected to participate in this intensive three-day program where they learned about the history of Maui Nui from Professor Aubrey Keʻalohi Matsuura, a Hawaiian Studies instructor at Maui College.

The students also visited the Waiheʻe Coastal Dunes and Wetlands Refuge where they met with Native Hawaiian cultural practitioners who talked to them about how they are protecting and preserving the land, learned about the legal system and advocacy from attorneys and judges, and met with a variety of community leaders.

A central goal of the academy was to increase interest in college, law school, and legal-related careers among young people who come from backgrounds and populations that are traditionally underrepresented among attorneys, judges, and policy decision-makers. For many of the students, the vision provided by these instructors was life-changing.

Photo: Program participant Luis Dorian Schenk with judges
Program participant Luis Dorian Schenk (center) with Second Circuit Chief Judge Peter T. Cahill (left) and Intermediate Court of Appeals Chief Judge Lisa M. Ginoza (right).

“The Maui Nui Law & Justice Academy gave me even more tools to understand how the legal field works,” said Lānaʻi High School senior Luis Dorian Schenk. “But the one thing that stands out the most is the humanity of the judges, lawyers, and professors. I’ve truly felt the joy and the presence of the instructors and their consideration and willingness to guide the youth in order to prepare the new generation. This was a great experience overall, and I appreciated all of their efforts toward teaching us.”

Many of the sessions and exercises focused on preparing the students for simulating a trial based on a Maui-centered moot court case created specifically for this program involving a clash between property rights and Hawaiian traditional and customary practices. Students learned what a case file is, how to argue their case, file motions, question witnesses, and address a judge and jury. The academy concluded with the students presenting their cases to Maui judges during mock trials.

The students also learned that they do not have to become lawyers or judges to work in the judicial arena.

They heard from a range of judiciary employees about other important career opportunities in the courts, such as being a social worker in drug court, working in the probation office, handling and preserving legal documents, and managing multiple finance issues for the courts. The students also heard from Maui County Councilwoman Keani Rawlins-Fernandez, state Sen. Gilbert Keith-Agaran and others about their personal journeys and advice.

Kulamanu Ishihara, interim vice chancellor of Student Affairs at UH Maui College, said “UH Maui College was pleased to be a co-host for the Maui Nui Law & Justice Academy. It was impressive to see the student participants and the law community engaged in interactive activities that potentially can influence a student’s future career goals. UH Maui College is committed to providing these educational opportunities for our future students and hopes to continue these efforts.”

The three-day academy was an impactful and rewarding experience for the students, as well as for the numerous individuals who gave their time and knowledge in support of the academy. Mahalo to the students and all involved!

Intermediate Court of Appeals Chief Judge Lisa M. Ginoza chairs the Commission to Promote and Advance Civic Education (PACE Commission). University of Hawaiʻi William S. Richardson School of Law Associate Professor Troy Andrade is a member of the PACE Commission.